Thursday, 16 April 2009

Why Us? How science rediscovered the mystery of ourselves by James Le Fanu

The two orders of reality (e.g.):

pg. 21

'The first or primary reality of water is that personal knowledge of its diverse states and properties that includes not just how we perceive it through our senses, but also the memories, emotions and feelings with which we respond to it. By contrast, the second order of reality is water's materiality, its chemical composition. [...] These two radically different, yet complementary, 'orders of reality' of water are mutually exclusive. There is nothing in our personal experience that hints at water's chemical composition, nor conversely is there anything in its chemical formula that hints at its many diverse states of rain, snow, babbling brook, as we know them from personal experience. This seemly unbridgeable gap between these two order of reality corresponds, if not precisely, to the notion of the 'dual nature of reality', composed of a non-material realm, epitomised by the thoughts and perceptions of the mind, and an objective material realm of, for example, chairs and tables.

The 'first order' philosophic view is the aggregate of human knowledge of the world as known through the senses, interpreted and comprehended by the powers of reason and imagination. The 'second order' scientific view is limited to the material methods. They are both equally REAL, but from the eighteenth century onwards scientific knowledge has been prioritised, through its ability to 'reduce' the seemingly inscrutable complexities of the natural world to their more readily explicable parts and mechanisms.


Parts of the self:

'unique subjective experience' of the world (self explanatory)
'autonomous agent' freedom of choice, prompted by initiative, act and make decisions
'memory' rich inner landscape of people, places and events
'reason and imagination' that through the power of language transcend the boundaries of personal experience of commune with the minds of others and make sense of the world

These are interdependent e.g. my subjective impressions of the trees outside are influenced by my memories and emotional feelings about trees in general. Thus, the self though clearly non material in that it has no substance and cannot be weighed or measured, [...] is the indestructible solid 'inner core' that is each one of us. That self, is grounded in the human brain which gives rise to it, but has its own coherent durable 'reality' that cannot be explained by the ever-changing transient electrical activity of its neuronal circuits. This conundrum of the dual character of a spiritual human mind, seemingly floated off from the physical brain [...] the human mind transcends that materiality and is not easily accessible. [...] crystalised around the concept of the soul.


The world out there: capturing an instant

The most difficult of all scientific propositions to come to terms with is that the three-dimensional world we inhabit is not as it seems 'out there' but is created by the electrical activity inside our brains. [...] Particles of light impacting on the retina are colourless, waves of sound are slient and scent molecules have no smell. They are all invisible, weightless, sub-atomic particles of matter travelling through space. It is the brain that impresses the colours, sounds and smells upon them.


[with the] ascendancy of scientific materialism, and the loss of appreciation of there being a non-material reality that transcends our everyday concerns. We have lost that sense of living in an enchanted world.

I guess I want to bring the non-material experiences that I have in dreams into a material outcome. Encouraging that science cannot explain the concept of our souls. So maybe I am trying to do something worthwhile!

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